fri 14/06/2024

Grayson's Art Club, Channel 4 review - too many clichés and platitudes? | reviews, news & interviews

Grayson's Art Club, Channel 4 review - too many clichés and platitudes?

Grayson's Art Club, Channel 4 review - too many clichés and platitudes?

Worthy but atypically conventional effort to lift the nation's spirits

Grayson Perry, maverick and national treasure

The national treasure that is Grayson Perry, CBE, RA, is hosting a six-episode national art club on Channel 4 for professional artists, amateur artists and the public. Since Perry came to national attention when he won the Turner Prize he has been happily ubiquitous.

He may well be the country’s most effective proponent of the visual arts, as well as its most famous transvestite.

Perry has written many books, delivered the Reith Lectures, curated exhibitions including the British Museum’s ground-breaking Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen, was a bold curatorial innovator for the RA summer exhibition and is a British Museum trustee. He is an effective maverick at the heart of the Establishment. So this conventional outing was a surprise.

The Art Club was tinged with worthiness and spiced with uplifting conventional platitudes: Perry believes art can get us through the crisis, help us to explore our creativity, inspire us, console us and tell us the truth of who we really are. Seriously?

The most appealing aspect was the charming but not gushing marital to-and-fro. In the first episode at least his wife Philippa (more than 30 years together) was in the studio. The first theme was Portraiture, with Philippa as the sitter. She pointed out that it was hard to see the reality of someone you have been close to for so long. There were always several relationships at once, including the one you thought you had and the one that there was.Grayson's Art Club, Channel 4Drawing Philippa was a motif, culminating in a ceramic. Another ceramic in the making was an abstract representation of Alan Measles, his mascot and teddy bear that he has had for nearly almost 60 years. We cut to other representations of Alan Measles in various art idioms.

The format, whisking in and out of Perry’s studio, was to connect with a featured guest artist, plus a roster of professionals and amateurs. Comedian Joe Lycett had chosen Morning Sun by Edward Hopper as a favourite, because of its light, calm, and peace. Lycett later went on to paint a portrait from a photograph of that media star, Professor Chris Whitty. Another artist, Nathan Wyburn, popped up to do a portrait of Perry himself using materials found in the larder – soy sauce for skin, and noodles for Perry’s wild hair.

Chantal Joffe is an artist whose work Grayson likes, and we eavesdropped on her project to create a self-portrait every day for a year. She commented that the virtue of lockdown is the economy that is forced upon you: the most economical means to get to where you want is the best.

Thousands of works have been sent in, but equally numerous were the clichés which were scattered throughout like confetti. Perry told us his art was about society. Lockdown was putting emotions into concrete visualisations, making a boxful of memories. Painting was a good thing to be doing. Portraiture was not about getting a likeness but about the relationship between artist and sitter.

Looking at her portrait, even Philippa fell into the banal – “you know me better than I know myself,” she told Grayson. The whole programme framed our leader as some kind of mate or a bloke leading a troop of Scouts, and art as a kind of vitamin pill.

Thousands of works have been sent in, but equally numerous were the clichés scattered throughout


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Most inspired by this. We are a mental health charity about to start an art project when lockdown came. Seeing this has given us the idea to mirror what you are doing every week, and get our service users who were looking forward to our group to send their work to us as well. Brilliant idea hope you don't mind pinching your idea for a good cause. Many thanks

Extremely dissapointing an 8yr child could have done better .this programme is one of the biggest pile of arch nonsense I have ever seen .I have drew and painted all my life and honestly this production is pure rubbish and a waste of a golden opportunity .

You missed the whole point. This series was not, nor intended to be, about art. It was about people, participation, inclusivity, community and good mental health, and it was wonderful. Art is for everyone, without exception, regardless of level of skill, preference or niche knowledge. If that is what you prefer, stick with Sewell.

As a reviewer for an arty website you will have heard every art truism so often they have become cliches. But they are still true and worth saying when the audience includes regular people who are engaging with art when we ordinarily would not. The reach of Grayson’s Art Club is much greater than that of ArtDesk. It is accessible and inclusive. Looking from the outside, the “world of art” has a reputation for being riddle with cliques as well as cliches?

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